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Cowboy Up

By Warren Resen

The event was billed as a �Cowboy-Up� weekend at Crescent J Ranch/Forever Florida. Most people seemed to think it meant dressing up and playing cowboy for the weekend. The term, as used by cowboys, especially at rodeos, has a totally different meaning.

Cowboy look-alikes above are the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, "The Duke" John Wayne, and Lash LaRue.
The entertainers had an uncanny resemblence to the original heroes.


A big feature of the weekend festivities were visits by old time Hollywood cowboy look-alikes. On hand to greet visitors were �The Duke� John Wayne, the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue and others. And they really looked the part. Walking into the visitor center, I was stopped dead in my tracks. In front of me stood �The Duke� in the flesh. It was uncanny.

The Hollywood heroes of old circulated through the crowd posing for photos, personalizing glossies of themselves for fans and talking to everyone, including me. These were all heroes from my childhood when I sat glued to my seat on Saturday mornings watching cowboy pictures at the local movie theatre. Yes, I'm that old.

Cloggers entertained at the event.

The weekend weather was magnificent and all outdoor events went on as planned. In addition to the cowboy look-alikes there was live music, clog dancing, horse shows and demonstrations, games, food stations, a BBQ dinner, a steak & chicken night and a hot morning breakfast buffet. Vendors selling all kinds of western items and assorted memorabilia filled the wrap around veranda of the visitor center and there were even western movies being shown inside.

The old Florida cow hunters probably never envisioned anything like the get ups worn by the Hollywood impersonators. The look-alikes were all fancied up like their movie counterparts. It's what a cowboy, by Hollywood standards, was supposed to look like. It's what several generations of kids worldwide fancied a cowboy was supposed to dress like. In olden times, in a more rural frontier Florida, being called a �cowboy� meant dressing up and going to town to whoop it up.

The look-alikes had their fancy pearl handled guns in fancy holsters hanging from equally fancy gun belts, except for �The Duke.� He carried a single 45 caliber revolver in a plain brown leather holster hung from a plain brown leather belt. None of that fancy stuff for him. They were all excellent character portrayers who tried to be as accurate to their movie counterparts as possible. And they succeeded.

Cracker cow herd at Forever Florida

But to Dr. William and Margret Broussard, owners of the Crescent J Ranch and Forever Florida, the real business behind the fun and games was to expose people to the 4,700 acres of a working ranch and pristine preserve and show what is being done to save a piece of old Florida. Visitors could take a 45 minute guided tour on a swamp buggy through the ranch and adjoining conservancy.

Dr. Broussard owns the largest herd of registered cracker horses and cows in the world. These are the descendents of the original horses and cows brought into Florida in 1521 by Ponce de Leon. That's the Crescent J Ranch part. The larger part of the property, Forever Florida, is being preserved in its natural state to honor their late son Allan, an ardent conservationist.

Cowboy bunkhouse

After sunset, I sat outside the bunk house where I would be spending the night with my boyhood heroes. It was a warm spring night and the conversation turned to other Hollywood cowboy greats especially their hero, Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys. It was with admiration and affection that they told stories of their meetings with him. Other movie greats from the past also came up in conversation.

Their knowledge of cowboys as depicted by Hollywood was extensive. When I asked what they knew about Florida's history, after all, Florida is where the West began with the first modern horses and the cows, their total combined knowledge was ZERO. But then the lack of knowledge of Florida's long history is all too common. So they had to endure a half hour lesson about the history I had learned from Patrick Smith and his wonderful book, lectures from Palm Beach County Judge Nelson E. Bailey about 500 years of Florida history and stories from Iris Wall of Indiantown, and so many others.

Horses await riders at the Crescent J Ranch - Forever Florida.

The Hollywood look-alikes bore no resemblance at all to the Florida cow hunters as portrayed in �A land Remembered� by Patrick Smith and yet when you ask people, even Floridians, to describe a cowboy, they are familiar only with the movie screen version. The cattle drives out West went on for about 10 years until the railroads arrived. In Florida, the cattle drives went on for almost 100 years. Will the real cowboy please stand up?!

Forever Florida has many events open to the public all during the year. For information go their website at .

Forever Florida is east of St. cloud along US 441 (N. Keanansville Rd.) south of Holopaw and north of Yeehaw Junction.

In case you are interested in local history, the story about how Kenansville supposedly got its name was told to me by someone down in Palm Beach at Whitehall, the Henry Flagler museum. As the story goes, Henry Flagler's third wife, Mary Lily Kenan, wanted someplace in Flagler's empire named for her family. Flagler was reported not to be too keen on his mother-in-law so when he agreed to do the deed he picked one of the remotest spots in his western rail line and named it Kenansville.


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